JOHN FOGERTY: Fortunate Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

John Fogerty has truly come full circle.

After years of bitter protracted legal battles waged against label honcho, Saul Zaentz, Fogerty is back with Fantasy Records, reuniting with the label that first put Creedence Clearwater Revival on the map. A remarkable career-spanning compilation crammed with 25 key CCR and solo tracks, John Fogerty: The Long Road Home was the first fruit of their surprising re-alliance.

John Fogerty has truly come full circle.

After years of bitter protracted legal battles waged against label honcho, Saul Zaentz, Fogerty is back with Fantasy Records, reuniting with the label that first put Creedence Clearwater Revival on the map. A remarkable career-spanning compilation crammed with 25 key CCR and solo tracks, John Fogerty: The Long Road Home was the first fruit of their surprising re-alliance.

Boasting an extraordinary four decade career of impeccable music making, John Fogerty is rightly celebrated as one of America’s most treasured and important songwriters. Forging the “swamp rock sound” with Creedence Clearwater Revival, Forgerty’s CCR output and his solo career draw rich helpings of musty blues, country and rockabilly-all flavored with a touch of the bayou.

For four short years, spanning 1968 to 1972, Creedence Clearwater Revival were unquestionably one of the most successful rock and roll outfits in the world. Scoring a succession of classic hit after hit, all penned by Fogerty, CCR was on the roll of a lifetime. During that time, they were such a mighty hit-making machine that on the record charts they duked it out with The Beatles and often emerged victorious.

It may come as a big surprise to many, but John Fogerty wasn’t born in Mississippi or Arkansas or Alabama or Tennessee or Louisiana. But somehow, the songs penned by this Berkeley, California-bred rocker were able to effortlessly tap into the mythology of the American South. You can hear it in the echoes of such signature classics like “Proud Mary” (written about a steamboat), “Green River” and “Born on the Bayou,” all songs tapping into his delta roots. And for over 40 years, John Fogerty has steadfastly maintained that essence of the South in his music.

 Plain and simple, John Fogerty is an extraordinarily talented singer, songwriter, producer and arranger. Through the years, he’s gone on to deliver a string of acclaimed solo records-The Blue Ridge Rangers, John Fogerty, Centerfield, Eye Of The Zombieand Blue Moon Swamp-all bearing witness to his magnificent skills as a first-rate songwriter. His songs are a model of economy and craft, inspiration and perspiration. Borrowing an analogy from his beloved pastime of baseball, he’s a utility player, equally adept constructing a powerful lyrical passage (“pumped a lot pain down in New Orleans”) or creating an insidiously catchy guitar hook (“Green River,” “Born on the Bayou,” “Down tn the Corner,” “Centerfield,”  et al.). Having penned a surplus of enduring songs, including such jewels as “Proud Mary,” “Fortunate Son,” “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” “Centerfield,” “Almost Saturday Night,” “Down on the Corner,” “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” “Travelin’ Band,” “Hey Tonight” and “Déjà Vu (All Over Again),” John Fogerty is the personification of the word legend.

Haling from Berkeley, your music has always been rooted in the bayou. What is about the sound of the South that inspired and fascinated you?

 I can only surmise. There’s been many a time I thought to myself that reincarnation just explains it all [laughs]. I’m a kid from Berkeley. My politics come from Berkeley. I certainly feel like a liberal 95 percent of the time. Every once in a while there’s an overlapping of what some people would call a conservative value. I just think it’s common sense. I tend to be more left of center than any place else…but very early on I’ve been drawn to the music of the south, whether it’s blues, country or rock and roll. It wasn’t until 1986 at the very first Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame ceremony…I’ve been asked all my life, “Why is your music so Southern? Why are you so fascinated?” I looked up at these pictures of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. I’m thinking, I don’t know about Sam Cooke [Cooke was born in Clarksdale, Miss.], but nine out of these 10 guys are from the South. A couple of days later I looked it up and found out that Sam Cooke was from [Mississippi] so it was a 10 out of 10 of the first rock and roll guys. As you raise your hands in the air, you go, “That’s it” [laughs]! I would see the Grand Ole Opry on TV. In the Bay area we had this little show in the very early ‘50s called

The Hoffman Hayride that I loved. You’d hear about people like Jimmy Wakely who had a wonderful big arch top guitar. He kind of dressed up. He was kind of uptown but still it was country. I can’t remember knowing exactly about Hank Williams but I remember the song “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and having my Dad explain that one to me. Elvis’ Sun Records had a big effect on me. I think I was 10 when I first heard them. I was totally wild for Elvis and the whole sound. I was totally fascinated and drawn to that sound. I thought everybody was. I thought that’s what everybody else was trying to do.

So that early period in rock was big for you.

Before then I’d been drawn to black artists because I knew about r&b and blues. I can remember a record called “Down In Mexico,” which later was released by The Coasters, but at that point it was The Robins. There was also a song called “Smokey Joe’s Café.” Even Bill Haley predated Elvis by a few months-“Rock Around the Clock,” “See You Later Alligator,” “Shake, Rattle & Roll.” It was on the radio before it was in the movies. So “Rock Around the Clock” was a big hit from two different years, if you check your Joel Whitburn book.

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